Monday, 29 October 2012


As I said in yesterday’s blog, clothing up Darley for the Winter made me think I should write a blog on how to cloth up a working boat, so here it is.
 Before I even start, and before anybody contradicts what I write, I will point out that there is not just one way to cloth up a working boat as boatmen often had their own little ways that were individual so what follows is the way I was taught.  Right first things first and before we can even consider clothing up a working boat, a good understanding of the various bits and pieces is essential. Traditionally a working narrowboat would have carried a full set of cloths as well as all the running gear, which would have consisted of several individual types of cloths including: Deck cloth, Cratch cloth, side cloths, top cloths and a Tippet.  Along with this would be all the timber works, categorised as running gear including crossbeams, boxmast, topmast, 2 stands, deck board, false cratch and uprights Nowadays many working boats have dispensed with some of the cloths and only use side and top cloths as well as some of the rope work used such as girding strings..
Cross beams – Three lengths of timber the width of the hold which divide the hold into four ‘rooms’
Boxmast –  A wooden ‘box’ about 8” square and 7-8ft long which is used to support the top planks and the towing mast which fits into a recess cut into the mast beam.
Topmast  The towing mast which slots inside the boxmast and is adjustable to vary the height (loaded/empty)
Stand – A tapered timber about 7-8ft in length and 8” wide used to support the top planks
The cratch – The name given to the whole of the tent like structure at the front of the hold consisting of the deck board, the false cratch and the cratch boards.
Deck board – The triangular timber board that supports the front end of the top planks and is to stop the ingress of water into the hold when locking.
False cratch – A timber three piece ‘A’ frame which supports the top planks between the deck board and the boxmast.
Cratch boards – Short straight pieces of timber which joint the false cratch to the deck board, making the whole assembly more rigid.
Uprights. – Straight lengths of timber which have a vee cut into each end and fit diagonally over the inside of the gunnel and the underside of the top planks, again holding and supporting the top planks in a rigid manner. (I have heard some call these quarters)
Deck cloth – A triangular cloth fixed to the deck beam by a strip of timber forming the same shape as the deck board but larger
Cratch cloth – (This was a later addition becoming popular in the 1950’s onwards especially with the midlands to south coal traffic)the same width as a top cloth but only about 5foot in length and was used to permanently cover the cratch never being taken down and with no need to cloth the cargo up being coal.
Side cloth – Two cloths about a yard wide and running the whole length of the hold.  Fixed to each side of the hold along the gunnel by means of a strip of timber and having reinforced brass eyelets along its top edge at about every yard. One side has lengths of rope called side strings spliced into each of the eyelets.
Top cloth – Three or four rectangular cloths the width being from gunnel to gunnel over the top planks.  The length of them to cover the whole length of the hold plus enough for an overlap at each joint.
Tippet – A narrow strip the length of the hold, just wider than the top planks which ends in a triangular section. When used it is laid in top of the top planks with the triangular section butting up to the edge of the deck board.  Its purpose is to protect the top cloths from wear and tear from walking up and down and also from chaffing from the top strings.
Along each gunnel, starting from the engine ‘ole bulk head, are metal rings about 1 .5” diameter held in place by metal staples and fitted at 36” centres. There is one ring stapled near the outside top edge of the gunnel and one on the underside of the gunnel directly underneath.  Working 36” centres from the back end should leave the last pitch, by the cratch, about 32”.  A ring is positioned at the very end, one at 16” and a second at 32” these are for securing the decorative hose and rockets.
Knee strings. (Used to secure the side cloths when not in use and rolled up on top of the gunnel)
Short lengths of 8 -10 mm rope about 18” long, with a loop sliced in one end and a back splice on the other and fixed to the staple under the gunnel

Side Strings (Used to secure the side cloths)
Lengths of 8 -10mm rope with a loop spliced in one end and a back splice in the other, approximately 12ft long.  The loop end is passed through the brass eyelet in the side cloths then the other end pulled through the loop to fix it to the side cloths.  When not in use the side strings are rolled up inside that side cloth.

Side strings are only fitted to one side cloth.  The actual length has to be sufficient to go over the top plank down to the opposite side cloth and back to the top plank then across the two side strings twice leaving enough to tie them off.

Top Strings (Used to secure the top cloths)
Lengths of 8 -10mm rope with a loop spliced in one end and a back splice in the other, approximately 20ft long.  Spliced onto the loop is a galvanised ‘S’ hook which is used to secure the top string to the ring stapled to the gunnel.
Rockets (Used to decorate the cratch)
Six lengths of natural cotton line  10 – 12 mm diameter, four about 18ft in length  and two about 25ft, with a loop spliced in one end and the other end whipped.

Girding strings Lengths of 12mm diameter line used for securing the top plank on top of the stands by lashing them to the cross beams 
Hose  (Used to decorate the cratch)
A length of rubberised cotton fire hose (getting hard to find nowadays) approximately 6ft in length with metal clasps and a spring fitted to each end, to secure it to the boat.
For the purpose of this I will assume that the boat’s running gear is all assembled and in position including beams, mast, stands, uprights and cratch.

Start by ensuring the tippet and top cloths are out of the hold somewhere accessible.  Undo all the knee strings to release both sets of side cloths and unroll them.
Side cloths.
Throw the side strings across the top of the top planks to the other side.

Thread the end of the side string through the brass eyelet in the side cloth.
Throw the side strings back over the top plank.

(you now have one strand one side and two strands the other)
Sit, or kneel on the top plank and work your way along each side string
Pull, alternately on each side of side string to tighten it.
When tight pass end under the top plank and around side strands from one to other and back to the side with two strands.
Pass end under the single strand.

Pass end across to other side (with two strands) and pass end under.
Pass end back to opposite side and under and finish off on side with two strands.
Pass one bite round the two strands, and hold tightly in position .
Pull the bight tight.
While holding the bight tightly in position  use other hand pull centre of remaining string between the two strands to form a loop.

Pull loop up tight against the bite

Pull string through from between two strands until end splice is trapped and a neat loop is formed.

Move along top plank to next side string and continue until all side strings are tied and the side cloths are taught.

(Incidentally, the method of moving along a plank by sitting on it and pendulating your bum along, instead of walking along it, due to uncertainty or alcohol, was know by boatmen as ‘Frogging the plank’.
 Top Cloths & Tippet
Starting from the back end lay the back top cloth out and adjust position to equal it out, then moving forward lay each top cloth out so it overlaps the previous cloth to give a waterproof joint to the hold, finishing off with the front cloth which has a square hole cut in it to go over the top mast.  Position triangular end of tippet in line with front edge of deck board and roll out along the length of the top cloths.

The triangular end of the tippet can be clearly seen in this photo
Hook the S hook into the ring on the one side gunnel and throw the remainder over to the other side.
Pass end through the opposite ring the throw back over to other side.
Repeat for all top strings.
Sitting /kneeling on top plank as for side cloths pull alternatively on each side to tighten top string.
Pass end of top string underneath the side string and pull tight across top of cloths, then pass under side string on opposite side then back again. Finish off on side with two strands then tie off end of top string in exactly the same way for side strings.

So that’s  it apart from fitting the decorative rockets and hose on the cratch which I will perhaps cover in another blog
So until then
Don’t bang ‘em about

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Brrrr the Winter is starting to bite, and that is not helped by having no coal due to someone on a newly set up coal boat forgetting to deliver the coal that we ordered off him last weekend at ‘that fuller do’!  We had left the boat tied up opposite Roger fullers boatyard last weekend and so after work on Friday, we loaded our things into my car and headed off, dropping Dawn’s car off at the moorings for when we get back.  Unloaded everything into Darley then fired the Petter up ready to move her down below the locks.  Just as we were heading off, Paul & Viv arrived and did the same with Whitby.  With both boats safely down the flight and breasted up below the bottom lock it was time to retire to The Star where we were joined by captain pugwash and Roger & Teresa Fuller for a few drinks and a gorgeous stew cooked for us by Jamie and Linsey (the gaffers)

Next morning Paul & Viv were off by 6.30 am, we had a much later start as we only had 4 hours boating in front of us, so we did not set off until about 9.00 am and by half one we were tying up at our mooring.  Dawn went off to to work just to check on the girls and I started loading things in boxes ready to take them off the boat for the Winter.  To help keep the rain and snow out over the winter months while at Great Haywood, I started to cloth Darley up.

When Dawn turned back up, she helped me and we got the side cloths up for now as I will go down this weekend and finish off with the top cloths,  that’s given me an idea for another blog, so till then,
Don’t bang ‘em about

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Well that’s it; all the shows of the year are over for us and now only the Winter to look forward to.  Got plenty of maintenance jobs to be getting on with though as well as quite a few jobs painting things with flowers and landscapes (roses & castles) for friends.  On getting home from work on the Thursday, we loaded the car and set off up to Stone for the end of season bonfire and hog roast courtesy of Roger and Teresa Fuller.  This weekend is made up of a collection of relations and close friends of the family with like minds in a lot of cases, working boats, steam engines, trains or just plain bonkers.  Some take their working boats to stay on while others are in camper vans and caravans and some just travel up by car for the day without stopping overnight.  Secured the dogs in the back cabin, stowed the food and clothes etc. then headed off down to The Star.  It was only drizzling as we set off but it got gradually worse as we walked on so that by the time we got to The Star it was absolutely hammering down and we were both soaked.  Drinks, meals and pudding then more drinks.  I can personally recommend The Star for the licensee Jamie & Lindsey keep an excellent house, the beers are kept perfect (real ales and fizzies), and the food is delicious and reasonable prices.  We sat chatting and still the rain hammered down.  At about 10.30pm Dawn said she was going to order a taxi back but the gaffer said “if you wait till I’ve finished, I’ll take you back”  and so he did, back up to the boat.  Next morning rose and did the brasses and blacked the range, after which we drove down to Aldi for a few essentials.  By 1.00pm Paul and Viv had arrived on Whitby and the rest of Friday afternoon was spent chatting, cleaning, polishing etc. apart from when Danny the horse arrived towing Ilford.

 On Wednesday evening, at home I had made a gypsy stew and we had been cooking it all day on the range and so by 6.00pm it was ready and Paul, Viv, Dawn & I all piled into Darley’s back cabin for a feast fit for a king (and a couple of Princesses).  By 7.00pm we all set off up to the other pub close by, The Talbot where a warm welcome was made.  By 10.00pm the pub was full with a lot of the people from the Fuller Do and the chat was mainly canal related.  Half way through the night, Sue, someone to do with the steam engines that were coming was talking about brass and Andy, off Dove, told her, unbeknown to me that I loved polishing brass.  A little later she came over to me and said “are you Blossom” “Yes” I answered. “I hear you like brass” she asked “yes I do”  “How do you fancy coming over in the morning and help clean the brass on the steam engine”  “Yes OK then” was the alcohol fuelled reply.  We ordered our last drink about 12.30pm and by 1.00am we were tottering off back to the boats a little worse for wear in some cases.  We were sound asleep when, at 9.00am the boat began to rock and we were treated to bacon, egg and mushroom sarnies.  After breakfast I gave Darley’s brasses a clean and then walked over to the boatyard with me tin of brasso and polishing cloths.  In the yard I was confronted by a 1917 steam tractor, a steam roller and a showman’s engine as well as a half size steam roller.  Sue spotted me and introduced me to the boys, Roger and Jack telling them I was the person who had volunteered to polish the showman’s engine.  The next two hours were spent polishing any brass that was cool enough to polish interspersed with long stares at the three beasts gently, effortlessly turning over and the smell of steam, coal and hot oil.  I could quite easily be persuaded to take on one of these mighty gentle giants, that is until Roger explained the value of such engines starting at about £150k!  It was not until the evening, when they were all lit up with the lights of the showman’s engine,

that I looked up and saw sign written along the top edge of the steam roller were the words F DIBNAH – STEEPLEJACK -BOLTON  that I turned to Andy Hoyle and said "is that Fred Dibnah's steam roller then" his reply was, " that's Freds ex wife and his two sons youv'e been talking to all weekend!".

The week end was again a total success made up of the steam engines being in steam, a parade of working boats, demonstration of timber saws, train rides, bonfire, hog roast and of cause alcohol and chatting.  Finally a couple of things worthy of a mention.  Anyone who knows Andrew Hoyle, knows he’s a bit of a lad and always looking for practical jokes.  On the Saturday, he left his bicycle unattended so a couple of us raised it up and hid it on top of the crane.

While on the boat parade he removed the Pigeon box and exhaust pipe off Ibex.  Him and Andrea were travelling round on the train and Dawn and Viv tried to soak them with the hose pipe, but they twigged their plot and got off the train at the other end of the boatyard, later Dawn and Viv got onto the pump truck and as they were going round, Andrew filled a bucket with sawdust and climbed the signal frame and as they passed underneath emptied the whole lot over them, much to the amusement of the crowd.  Overall, the party was a fitting end to a season of boating and shows but, for now, until next time that’s it.  Oh and don’t forget.
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Friday, 26 October 2012


This last week end we had a lovely gentle time travelling up to Stone.  On Friday we took both cars up to Stone and left my car there then gave Paul Barber a lift to Alvecote where Whitby was Saturday we left Great Haywood at 5.00pm after Dawn had finished work and tied up for the night at Weston.  After about an hour Whitby turned up and breasted up to us.  We all then retired to the Saracens Head for a nice meal and a drink. On returning to Darley Dawn took the dogs for their last walk while I put the bed down.  When she got back, Scruff decided to fall between the towpath and the counter.  The next ten minutes were spent rubbing him down with towels, having a curly/fluffy coat he dries quite easily though.  At about 6.00 the next morning, Scruff jumped up on the cross bed on top of Dawn and started to paw at the duvet. Dawn shouted at him to stop but instead he had an accident and pooed on her side, problem was he was very loose.  Needless to say within minutes we were up, dressed and the duvet had been stripped and black bagged in the hold ready to bring home for washing.  Whether it was something he ate or the dunking in cold cut water that had upset his stomach we don’t know.  The morning was quite cold and a very thick fog/mist shrouded the canal and we decided to wait until it cleared a bit

And so we proceeded with a jointly cooked breakfast of sausage, bacon, mushrooms, beans, cheesy mash followed by a late start by which time the earlier thick fog had cleared and been burnt off by the early morning sunshine and we had a pleasant trip in the sun shine up to stone.  British Waterways (I know it’s CRT, but it will always be British Waterways to me!) had finally finished the lock landings at Aston lock and very nice it looks to, except it’s no use nor ornament to working boats as you can’t get within about two foot of the bank, as I pulled in as there was a boat coming down, and graunch as Darley heeled over on the hard rocky bottom.  I just sat here and waited until the descending boat raised the paddles and used the flush to free her, well done CRT.

By the early afternoon we were heading up the stone locks and tied up opposite Roger Fullers yard.  A leisurely stroll back down the canal to the star where we had Sunday roast accompanied with a couple of pints and then back to the boats to pack everything away ready for driving home.  Well there you are, just one more week end away, ‘till next time
Don’t bang ‘em about

Thursday, 25 October 2012


(29-30Sept) Arrived home straight after work on the Wednesday, loaded car, and were off.  After unloading everything into the boat we walked down to the Victoria chippy in Owen street, Tipton (highly recommended) for a fresh roe and chips which we ate on the tables outside The Fountain before entering for a couple of pints before going to bed.

Off at 8.00am next morning for the trip round to Park Head. Once again we flew through the tunnel and then you hit it.  From Windmill End round to Park head though Blackbrook, where BWB used to have a dredging tip and so used to be quite deep, was a nightmare.  Every bridge ‘ole had it’s resident ‘washing machine’ and every few hundred yards meant chucking it astern to throw the plastic bags off the blades as well as the encroaching weed beds reducing the cut down to a single boats width.  Speaking to Vic Smallshire the previous week at Tipton show, we had been informed that we were to be moored in Jack’s arm.  For those of you who do not know the area, jack’s arm is a short arm that leads off Park Head Junction at the bottom of the locks.  There were three good reasons why we were not going to moor there, we would have left and gone home first. We have tied across Jack’s arm previously and it is infested with rats the size of cats! Which last time spent all night running across the boats. Secondly, for us to get off the boat meant crossing the gates of the bottom lock, not a problem for Dawn and I but there is no way we could get Bruce the Labrador across lock gates.  Could carry Scruff but Bruce weighs 8 stone.  The third and final reason was that we are very proud of Darley and we take her to shows for the public to see and to interact with them.  The show was in the tunnel pound above the 3 Park Head locks and there was no way the public were going to come all the way down the flight thencross the gates at the bottom lock then across to jack’s arm to see the boat.  On arrival I made the turn in the basin and entered the bottom lock.  As Darley came up in the lock we were greeted by old friends Cliff and Barbara Sherwood who I have known for nearly fifty years.  They were the assistant harbour masters for this weekends show and said I could moor on the towpath in the first pound as long as when the horse boat was performing we pushed over and tied on the offside next to their boat Bellatrix.

Perfect no problems with that, ideal spot to watch the hose boat go up and down. Friday tea time we had arranged to have a communal tea and so Chris Shenton, Ex boaters Johnny brooks, Henry & Phyllis Johnson and Dawn & I all assembled on Chris Shenton’s boat for tea which consisted of a gypsy stew and noggins of crusty bread which I had cooked in the week at home.  The Friday night was spent in the beer tent with Henry & Phyllis being entertained by two singers on acoustic guitars who were good and drinking Banks draft mild, the best was yet to come though with the Saturday entertainment being provided by Dr Busker & The Steam Fair Choir who are brilliant.  The more the evening went on, the bluer the band got. On the Saturday morning, at about 11.00am we pushed Darley over to the opposite side of the canal and tied next to Bellatrix. I then stood in the hatches to watch the fun.  On the Friday afternoon the horse had been walked up and down from the top basin to the bottom, several times to get it ‘used to the road’ and so at the due time it was hitched up to the ex-GWR railway boat ready to, as the tannoy announced, “show the public how it used to be done”.

After the starting photo shoot everyone was cleared from the towpath and the horse leaned on the line.  Well what a joke- the mast pulled out and lay flat across the bows, the boat rubbed the guard iron all up the pound and then as the horse finally eased off the steerer got the boat very badly cross winded in the lock mouth.  I don’t profess to know a lot about ‘oss boatin, except what I had learnt as a youth with Caggy Stevens, but this was a fiasco and totally wrong.  Overall it was a really good show with over eighty boats in attendance and on top of that the weather was very kind.

On the Sunday afternoon we dropped back down the bottom lock into the basin and were off round to Tipton for a night in the Pie factory with Henry & Phyllis, Chaddy (Kevin Chadwick) and Ann. John Blunn & Mavis. As we entered Netherton, I got ready for my usual charge through.  When I got 100yards into the tunnel, I thought ‘that headlight ain’t very bright’ that was because it was not working.  I chucked Darley aster and came back out to investigate.  Tried everything I knew to no avail, so I cut the cable just in front of the engine ‘ole bulkhead.  When the wires were flicked together there was a spark so I knew there was power to there.  I remover the plug off the headlight and tried it on the short cable where I had cut it, it worked and so I fixed the headlight onto the back end rail with electrical tape and headed into the darkness.  It was really bright and I could see every brick by the cabin but in front of the bow was pitch black!  Monday saw us all leaving Tipton at about 9.00am and heading off down ‘Ampton locks by about 11.00am John Blunn lead the way followed by us then Henry and bringing up the rear was Chaddy, with all of us drawing for each other.  We were making excellent time down the flight and would have been down in under three hours if we had not caught up with a Vikings Adrift half way down the flight who were that painfully slow that Mavis, who’s in her eighties, ended up drawing for them as well.  We got to the bottom lock and all said our farewells to John and Mavis as they were going back up the Shroppie while we were off on up the Stour cut. As we approached Gailey lock, a hire boat was just entering in front of us.  I dropped dawn off on the lock landings and she walked down.  On peering down into the now emptying lock, was told by the elderly gentlemen on the descending boat, “I used to work them forty years ago” pointing to Darley.  “Oh you might know the couple on the boat following us as they used to work the cut”  By this time Phyllis had arrived at the lockside and shouted down “hello George, hello Gladys.  Sure enough Henry and Phyllis knew them. George and Gladys Carter (nee Lapworth) used to work London boats(Grand union) and they knew Darley when she was on the Guinness with George Radford.  Quick arrangements were made and all three boats carried on together and we all tied up at The cross Keys for a meal and a pint or two.  The evening passed with many boatman tales being swopped like the day George’s brother fell in the cut and jumped out that quick he never even got his vest wet!  What a lovely couple they were, both in their eighties and still boating with their daughter and son.  A 9.00am start the next morning saw us back at the mooring and tied up as Henry & Phyllis passed by on their way back to their mooring at Weston.  All in all a really enjoyable few weeks and we never –
Banged ‘em about once

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


(23-24 Sept)Always have a good week end at this show, I think it’s something to do with the people there, being back home so to speak, and a weekend of folks spaykin proppa.  When we left Darley there last week she was tied against the bank but when we got down to her the following weekend she had been moved and was tied outside another boat that was fully clothed up, which made it very difficult if not impossible to get the dogs on and off and even though we asked the owner to fold the last 2 foot of his cloths back to let us cross the back end boards he refused so the choice we had was to have both the dogs inside the back cabin all day and night for the whole weekend or find somewhere else to moor.  I was all for leaving but were persuaded by Chris Shenton and Joe Holinshead and so we moved and tied on the outside of the two tugs alongside their tug decks and spent the weekend shuffling back and forth each time we wanted to get the dogs out of the hold or into the back cabin at night.

The show at Tipton is spread over two sites a short walk apart and separated by Owen street bridge with some of the boats moored on the off side in front of Coronation Gardens and the other half moored on both sides of the canal opposite the Neptune Health Centre.  A trip boat is operated from the towpath side taking passengers on a 30 minute trip. 

Spent the Friday night in the Fountain Inn having a good chin wag and drinks with friends.  Saturday morning and we arose to quite a pleasant day so I set about cleaning the brasses and Dawn cooked breakfast after which we went for a walk around the site and looked at all the stalls and stands.  On the Saturday night we had a drink and a lovely meal in The Fountain Inn with Henry and Phyllis Johnson. Sunday morning saw a change in the weather and the rain kept the crowds away.  We had breakfast in the medical centre then returned to the boats to start to pack things away and head off for home as we were leaving the boat moored here at Tipton ready for next weeks gathering at Park Head.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012


(12-14 Sept) Went down to Alvecote on the Wednesday evening and had a night in the Bulls Head, Polesworth with Lawrence Williams.  Headed off at about 9.00am the next morning and were soon making the turn at Fazeley Junction and a little bit later stopping momentarily for a photo shoot at Dawn's favourite 'Folly Bridge'.

 We pushed on up Curdworth and Minworth and were having a really good run until we reached Aston (The lousey ‘leven).  Once again the bottom pounds were all down, as they had been a couple of weeks ago when Martin got stuck with Kestrel.  We pulled out of lock 10 and bumped over the cill as we came out with the pound about 18” down.  We rock and rolled all up the pound bouncing from one pile of bricks to another and got to within a boats length of lock 9 and that was it, we were solid.  I managed to push the bows over to the towpath and jump off to run some water down.  I told Dawn to feel for any movement and then put the power on.  It was about half hour later when the boat started to move and finally go into the lock.  This now meant we were suffering with lack of water up the rest of the flight.  By the time we got to the top of the flight and Aston Junction it was starting to get dark.  Dawn did not want to tie here so we decided to push on up the Old Thirteen and tie at old turn, which we did at about 10.30pm.  As we were coming up the flight we started to have a few problems with the headlight.  Every time I nudged the top cill with the bows, it went out or flickered.  I tried the usual of tapping the headlight or moving the wires about but it had no affect but when the boat bumped again it came back on and so we came up the flight with the light going off and coming on all the way up.  We headed off the next morning, and after the problems of the Aston pounds we had a great trip round the old Main Line

up Smethwick and round through Oldbury where ther’s plenty of water, flew through Netherton tunnel again, which I have said before on my blog, I love going through here, wide, deep and flat out!

On arrival at Windmill End we moored in our usual spot on the tunnel pound.  I went over to the ‘harbourmaster’ to check we were in the right mooring, then returned to Darley and cleaned all the brasses.  As always a very enjoyable show with plenty of public about, talking about the boat, good selection of ales in the beer tent with entertainment both Friday and Saturday night.  My only comment about this show is the fact that the working boats are spread all over the place, unlike many other shows where they keep them all together.  Left Windmill End on the Sunday afternoon and ran back round to the Black Country Museum accompanied by Chris Shenton, who we were giving a lift back home after we had moored at Tipton.

Our little diversion round to the museum was to empty toilets, rubbish and fill cans with water then back to the secure moorings at Tipton ready for next weeks show, and till then,
don't bang 'em about.


Monday, 22 October 2012


1st-2nd.Sept Not a lot to say about Shackerstone really apart from the crawl up the muddy Moira cut.  It was getting dark as we made the turn at Marston Junction but I carried on until it was getting too hairy.  As both sides of the cut are edged with tall reeds it is difficult to tell by headlight which way the cut turns in the distance so by the time we got between bridges 11 and 12 I just pulled Darley over on to the mud and that’s where we stopped for the night.  We carried on the next morning at 8.00am and soon arrived at Shackerstone where we tied in our usual spot  between the aqueduct and the village bridge, and later Paul and Viv joined us on Whitby by the Friday.

The usual steam train ride, beer in the beer tent, evenings in the Rising Sun, daytime walking round the stalls and watching the sheep racing and duck herding.

After Shackerston we decided that instead of returning Darley to Great Haywood, as we had originally planned, we would leave her at Alvecote for the week and go up to windmill End by the back route up the B’ham & Fazeley.  On the way back down the Moira cut, Just as we approached the water point at limekiln bridge, we picked up a right blade full which stopped the engine dead.  I drifted in to the bank and proceeded to poke about under the counter to discover a huge raft of reeds.  After 10mins further prodding we were off again heading off to Alvecote where we had left my car the week before, so with washing and dogs loaded we left darley and were off home for a hot shower and food.  Well after a week on the Moira we hadn't so much banged 'em about, more like squelched, slid, dredged 'em about!


Sunday, 21 October 2012


(22.08.12) Saturday morning and I went up to Darley and titivated  before setting off on the eventless journey to home.

I tied Darley up opposite and locked her up and walked round to the house to collect boxes and bags ready for the next two weeks on the boat.  Dawn arrived from work and we set off about 5.00pm.  A couple of hours later we were dropping down middle lock at Fradley where we were greeted by Andrew & Andrea off Dove and an evening was arranged in the Swan. We were later joined by Roger & Teresa and Martin fuller.  Sunday we arrived at Glascote 2 with only three boats in front however it was still an hour before we reached the top. I hate the section from Fradley to bottom of Glascote as its shallow, full of crap and with lots of turns and narrow sections where people choose to moor.  We arrived at Alvecote by mid-day and turned into the marina and moored on an empty pontoon ready for the weekend’s fun, and oh boy was there to be some fun.

Later that afternoon some a friend of ours, Liz Rees, walked by carrying a wig which needless to say I could not resist the temptation as I have always fancied being a blond.  Too many people said it suited me for me to feel comfortable although it did come out again in the pub on the Saturday night

The Friday night saw us all being entertained by an irish folk band called Finnegans Wake and very good they were too.  On return to Darley we discovered that Mike Askey off Victoria had made the mistake of inviting Tom and James off coal boat Archimedes back for a drink along with Hairy Neil, Ian Blakelock-Rae  and Mikey’s girlfriend Michelle and J’s dog. When we got back to Darley we realised that we were not going to get any sleep for a while so, grabbing Guinness and wine we joined them. We stood on the counter but the rest were inside and by the time they had finished Mikey’s back cabin was a mess.  They lit his camper grill, cooked a whole pack of bacon and a loaf of bread, ate a box of apple pies, ate a box of cocoa pops and a box of weetabix minis.  What they hadn’t eaten was on the cabin floor.  At Audlem, we had bought some small water pistols to fire at Scruff, the new dog, to stop him yapping everytime Dawn got off the boat.  Needless to say they did get used to shoot other boat owners etc. as well.  Karen Parrot had threatened to get us back at Alvecote, so, in readiness, Dawn had bought a very large super soaker which was stolen off us by James and Tom off coal boat Archimedes as we passed each other on the boat parade.  They proceeded to soak Andrew off Dove as they passed them returning on the parade. The things got a little wet with olk filling buckets and handbowls with water to throw, all in good fun though.

When Andrew got back to the marina he grabbed a galvanised bucket and hid behind a moored boat down by the lay by where returning boats winded.  As Archimedes returned he jumped onto the cabin top a threw a full bucket of water over them, followed by a further three buckets full.  This was countered by Tom setting off a powder extinguisher all over Andrew.  Great fun but it was not over yet!  Saturday night saw us all being entertained in the Samuel Barlow pub by ‘Signy’s’ band until the early hours.  Tom & J were still enjoying themselves when Andrew & Andrea left where he proceeded to untie Archimedes and push her out into the middle of the marina before retiring to bed.  When J & Tom returned they simply slept on two other boats leaving theirs drifting till morning.  Andrew on the other hand arose and shafted Dove back to her mooring then went back to sleep.  At about 3.30am J got up and repeated the prank, pushing dove out into the marina.   At dinnertime on the Sunday every body was making their way up to the Barlow to hear the result of the Les Lapworth Award presented for the best turned out working boat voted for by all historic working boat owners in attendance, and presented by his widow Alice. When the time came it was announced that “ the winner of the Les Lapworth award is” ---------------------------Darley.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

 I went up the stairs to the balcony to be presented with the trophy by Alice then asked to say a few words which I will say again here, I don’t keep Darley the way I do to win any awards, it’s just the only way I have been taught and know, but it was good!  In all I think there was 55 historic/working boats attended and another great do was put on by Malcolm and the Alvecote tribe so once again many, many thanks, and till next time, don’t bang ‘em about.
PS I will need to come up with something special for next years do!

Saturday, 20 October 2012


As I stated on the last blog, on return from Audlem, we were greeted by a scaffold wagon delivering 100 short used scaffold boards for Darleys decking.  Over the next couple of nights after work and the following weekend these were all cut and laid, with the assistance of Chris Shenton, so now Darley has a new mooring onto which it is safe to walk and even jump off the bows without the fear of going through.

 The next thing we did was to dredge the mooring as in the space of a couple of months while we had been out on Darley, it had filled up with mud etc.  The boat on the mooring in front had gone out for the day, so with Dawn on the bank and me on Darley we moved her half way down the mooring and secured her as close as we could then by use of the wash from the engine and continually going from ahead to astern, we gradually washed all the mud away until we could get her right in the side and up against the boards..
We were very luck with that tyre shown in the photo.  It was underneath the boards when we laid them but the wash from the prop must have dislodged it and it came out from under the boards and went straight under the counter before I had chance to knock it out of gear but luckily, the blade of the prop hit it and sent it back out and we were able to fish it out.  It’s a little ironic in doing this as when Darley was owned by Alfred Matty & Sons, in the 1970-80s, they cut her bow off behind the mast and fitted a ‘punt’ front, installed a JCB type arm and re-named her Will Newton to use her as a dredger.  It was never a great success as she was very unstable and rolled about when the arm was slewed across.  Now we can get Darley right in to the side.  Mind you we are off out again in a short while and I suppose it will fill up again while we are out, but hey ho, so till then
Don’t bang ‘em about.


Thursday, 18 October 2012


Left the boat at Norbury for the next few weeks and just popped up each weekend to do a few jobs and have the occasional drink with friends.
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Such as on Saturday 30th Darley, Tench and Canis Major headed off up to the Anchor for the night where we were entertained by Dave Ray on accordion, Mal Edwards and Barny Ball on guitars and a good old fashioned night was had.
The following Saturday we moved Darley up to the old Cadbury factory at Knighton and arranged to meet Dave Ray in the Habberdashers Arms, just half a mile walk from the canal (your ‘avvin a laugh Dave!)
The 'Dashers' as it is known, is a fascinating unspoilt country pub which boasts a collection of over 50 old oil lamps and on some nights they switch off the electrics and have the pub iluminated by oil lamps only.

  The following day (8.07.12) we set off on the short journey to Audlem for the following weekend’s Transport festival.  We tied up on the offside opposite Audlem Mill then loaded our bits and pieces in the car and headed home.  By the Thursday we were back on the boat at Audlem and were most disappointed to find out that Henry and Phyllis were not going to make it as Cactus had broke down and been took back to Weston.  First thing we did was to take Darley down to wind below the bottom lock.  On returning we breasted up on the outside of Whitby as the offside towpath was very muddy where we had been tied.  Friday night a whole crowd of us booked in at The Bridge for Friday Night fish and chips and had a pleasant evening chatting.  Saturday was spent cleaning brasses , inside and out, the Saturday evening we had a skittles completion.  We had bought a set of wooden garden skittles some time ago and never used them so I laid the top planks along the centre of the hold against the stands/mast and set up a skittles alley.  And so Dawn & I, Cornish Mick and Julie, Chris Shenton and Johnny Brookes set about having a good time.  Due to the shuts not all being perfectly level, occasionally a wooden ball would launch itself and become airborne. Cornish Mick took one of Dawn’s large sauce pans and put it on his head for protection.

 Sunday, we wandered into the town and visited the chippy then sat on the grass banks surrounding the field being used for the vehicle parade of about 200 vehicles.  The rain held off for most of the day with odd showers in between so overall the week end was a good one.  On the Sunday tea time we left Audlem and made our way to the top of the flight assisted by a waterways volunteer then carried on up Adderley and ending up tying up at about 10.00pm at Market Drayton, only to find that by the time we had a quick wash and change, the pub was shut at 10.30pm. so an early night was on the cards.  The following day(31.07.12) we got as far as Radford bank and a carvery at the pub of the same name then on the Tuesday we finally got back to our moorings at Great Haywood.  As we were tidying up Darley and loading the car, a scaffold wagon arrived with over 100 old scaffold boards for me to replace Darleys the mooring, but thats another story, so till then,
Don’t bang ‘em about.